Jenny Holen, an employee at a Goodwill store and donation center in Colorado Springs that has experienced an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, told her supervisors that she felt unsafe working after she saw several of her coworkers without face masks and ignoring social distancing in the breakroom.

Goodwill management encouraged an employee at the 4158 Austin Bluffs Parkway location, who later tested positive, to report to work when she had a sore throat and cough, Jenny Holden told her husband, Jason Holden. The employee allegedly was advised to continue working because she didn’t have a fever.

“My first reaction when (my wife) called me was, ‘Quit, walk out now.’ I don’t want her going back there,” Jason Holden said.

Staff sent Jenny Holden home May 5 and gave her a 30-day unpaid leave of absence, her husband said.

Goodwill is one of two major stores in Colorado Springs with outbreaks of COVID-19, with the other store identified as the Walmart located at 1575 Space Center Dr.

As of Tuesday, four employees tested positive at the Goodwill store, public health officials said.

The outbreaks prompted alerts to customers who visited Walmart and Goodwill of the potential COVID-19 exposure, according to El Paso County Public Health. 

The Goodwill store will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before reopening, said Bradd  Hafer, a spokesman for Goodwill Colorado. Other Goodwill locations will remain open.

Prior to the outbreak, Hafer said the store was limiting the amount of customers allowed inside to allow for proper social distancing and to mitigate overcrowding.

Hafer said he was not aware of employees not wearing masks or not complying with safety measures at the Austin Bluffs store.

“If that is ever identified by a store manager or a supervisor or an authority there, they would immediately be called into the office and reprimanded and made sure that they were complying with those measures and explained the severity of keeping those safety measures in place,” he said.

Any notification of employees not following the safety measures, even made on social media, are brought to the attention of the supervisor of each store for them to investigate, he said.

Prior to the outbreak, Hafer said the store was limiting the amount of customers allowed inside to allow for proper social distancing and to mitigate overcrowding.

The store, along with many other nonessential retail outlets across the state, was permitted to fully reopen, with precautions, on May 1 under the governor's Safer-at-Home order.

Decals were placed on the store’s floor to direct customers to stand six feet apart from each other and signs were posted to direct shoppers to go one way down aisles to avoid congestion, Hafer said.

Other measures included plexiglass installed at checkout stands, frequent sanitation of “high-touch areas,” closing fitting rooms and temporarily prohibiting food and beverages from the store’s Books & Brew area.

Before clocking in, a designated staff member conducted a health screening of each employee, which included temperature checks, Hafer said.

“If they don’t pass those screenings, they would be sent home summarily to make sure they are not running the risk of infecting other staff or customers in the store for that day,” he said.

Masks and gloves are “absolutely mandatory” for retail staff and those working at donation centers and managers on the floor monitor that employees are complying with safety measures, Hafer said.

The Gazette's Leslie James contributed to this article.


Where you can get tested for coronavirus in the Colorado Springs area.

Colorado doctors watching for potential coronavirus-related syndrome affecting children.

PHOTOS: Documenting COVID-19 in the Pikes Peak region.

Load comments